European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 1-13

Bridging the gaps between non-invasive genetic sampling and population parameter estimation

  • Francesca MaruccoAffiliated withProgetto Lupo Piemonte, Centro Gestione e Conservazione Grandi Carnivori Email author 
  • , Luigi BoitaniAffiliated withDepartment of Human and Animal Biology, University of Roma “La Sapienza”
  • , Daniel H. PletscherAffiliated withWildlife Biology Program, Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, University of Montana
  • , Michael K. SchwartzAffiliated withUSDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station

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Reliable estimates of population parameters are necessary for effective management and conservation actions. The use of genetic data for capture–recapture (CR) analyses has become an important tool to estimate population parameters for elusive species. Strong emphasis has been placed on the genetic analysis of non-invasive samples, or on the CR analysis; however, little attention has been paid to the simultaneous overview of the full non-invasive genetic CR analysis, and the important insights gained by understanding the interactions between the different parts of the technique. Here, we review the three main steps of the approach: designing the appropriate sampling scheme, conducting the genetic lab analysis, and applying the CR analysis to the genetic results; and present a synthesis of this topic with the aim of discussing the primary limitations and sources of error. We discuss the importance of the integration between these steps, the unique situations which occur with non-invasive studies, the role of ecologists and geneticists throughout the process, the problem of error propagation, and the sources of biases which can be present in the final estimates. We highlight the importance of team collaboration and offer a series of recommendations to wildlife ecologists who are not familiar with this topic yet but may want to use this tool to monitor populations through time.


Capture-mark-recapture Genetic Molecular tagging Non-invasive Population size